Category Archives: America

Lessons in life

There it is…. the gas pump on the left.

Someone posted this photo on the Portales, New Mexico, FaceBook group site and it brought back a flood of memories of that gas station, and even that pump there on the left:

When I got out of the army July 1965, I went to work a while for Abe Ribble at his readymix company on the Lovington highway….

One of my jobs was to take the deposits down to the bank, park outside the door with the engine left running, and quickly go into the bank to drop off the deposits. This was the way Abe demonstrated he wanted it done my first day on the job.

The second week on the job I made the deposit, then came out and the car was gone. I was craning my neck staring down the street when an old man leaning against the building asked, “Are you looking for Abe’s car?”  Portales was a small town and everyone knew Abe Ribble [and everyone else in town, and their cars.]

“Yeah, it was right here.” Me indicating the vacant pull-in.

“It headed off in reverse up 2nd Street and cut into the Gulf station. Knocked down a gas pump and stopped on top of it.” He pointed, and there it was, gasoline flooding the tarmac underneath it.

I figured that was the end of me working for Abe Ribble.   But in fact, when I told Abe what happened he couldn’t quit laughing. I’ve been intending to get that fixed,” He chuckled. “I guess I waited a bit too long.”

Seems that car had been slipping out of the Park position and heading off on its own missions for some while, but it never got around to hitting anything important before.

Old Jules

 

That time again

We’ve seen enough  to allow us to draw some conclusions about the White House and those who occupy it these days.   They’re not bothering to wear masks anymore.

The storm of finger pointing and claims of authoritative evidence this side, that side, or some other side the daily deluge is not  going to bring sanity into the equation.  When all parties and at least two foreign governments illegally influenced the last elections or otherwise sold the country out maybe it’s time to back away a while.   See who’s left standing when the dust settles.

I seems clear nobody’s going to come out of this thing clean if they’ve occupied the White House since 1992, or aspired to occupy it.   And the irony that everyone in the White House or aspiring to be there sold their souls to the Russians ought to be funny because it’s too overwhelmingly absurd to be anything else.

What we do know, or ought to know, is that one way to become wealthy is get elected to National Office.   And that doing what makes you wealthy once in office is evidently universally irresistible.   Even when the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court dies in spang in the middle of a piece of a bribe payoff it barely raises an eyebrow.   It certainly doesn’t interrupt the public display of remorse at his loss.

I get all my news off Facebook and from Johnny, my neighbor-across-the-hall, who owns a television.   Watches sports, stock-car racing, weather, and picks up the occasional piece of juicy Washington gossip.

Which might be too much news for me to stomach.

Back in the Clinton years I vowed to go through an entire presidential term without knowing who was in the White House.   I would have succeeded, I think, were it not from the interruption of 9-11.   After that I gradually allowed news to creep back into my consciousness.

Now, it seems I can resign myself to be constantly dumbstruck, or I can just retreat back into my worship of Old Sol, listen to Gregorian chants mornings, classical music the rest of the day, and leave current events to those who love knowing them.

If I have the will power to manage it.

Old Jules

Disturbing insights

This ignorant cracker entered the US Army in 1961 during the Berlin Crisis [when the Berlin Wall went up]. Given the similarities of patriotic rhetoric between countries he’d as happily taken the orders of an Adolph Hitler as John Kennedy.

Yesterday I was down at the laundromat, which was a bit crowded with the lower-end of the socioeconomic scale of Leavenworth, Kansas.   But because of the time of day, most were senior citizens or younger wives with kiddos.   Several old Vietnam era vets and a couple of granny-ladies.

When it’s that crowded in the place it forces people to become social instead of just staring at the clothing tumbling in their washers or dryers.   And when strangers discuss anything these days it will be sports, television, politics, or Muslims, for the most part.   Some of which inevitably leads to confessions of some nasty hatreds and deep biases.

I was a bit shocked when the discussion centered almost entirely on the president and the enthusiasm shared among the ones who were vocal on the subject.    These people, senior citizens who obviously rely on Social Security pensions and Medicare, are still devoted and determined to to see this president and the Congress with intentions to destroy their Medicare and Social Security remain in office.   Increase their power.

I’ll confess to have been quietly dumbfounded.   They sneered at the class of people who are openly critical or have doubts about the prez and the Congress that’s likely to put them out on the streets cold an hungry.  And the old vets were noisy about the opposition being expressed in some quarters to a proposed military parade somewhere.   Which I couldn’t care less about one way or the other.

But I’ve digressed somewhat.    All that got me remembering, wondering just what sort of people we veterans are, on the whole.   Obviously we aren’t deep thinkers.    And while many spout patriotic rhetoric and indignation, as nearly as I can tell most have remained the ignorant crackers most of us were back when we entered the military 50 years or so ago.

But what’s more disturbing than our lack of growth and acquired wisdom over the decades, is the fact so many of us evidently are using our stupidity as a launchpad for active participation in the political process.

To demolish our own livelihood.

Figure that one out.

Old Jules

I won’t tolerate rude behavior

Israeli soldier and a couple of Palestinian children in the ‘occupied territories’.

Hi readers.   Thanks for coming by for a read.

How in the world did we human beings come to be such violent animals?

It’s tempting to conjecture it was after we became ‘civilized’, but that can’t be it.   A person would have to search deeply and far to find aboriginals who aren’t as savage as the Israeli soldier pictured above.    People anywhere no matter what their level of weaponry, cultural sophistication, religious convictions, when they discover someone has something they want, become savages.

And what they want doesn’t have to be, as in the case of the Israelis, land to steal from the people who own it.    Virtually anything of current value will do, and almost any quantity.    Or, failing that, when it comes to killing the ambiguous and abstract can serve as well.

I suppose we’re fond of telling ourselves that unlike our savage ancestors, our own killing and stealing is necessary, patriotic if it’s done by soldiery.   Or if it’s done because of some threat we can contrive the people we wish to kill or rob pose to our tribe.    From down in the streets in drive-by shootings all the way up through the braided channels of finance, race, ethnicity, language and tribe in the undercurrent of our lives.

Our males, young and old, abdicate their moral and ethical choices to politicians they wouldn’t trust to sell them a used automobile.   Politicians who tell them who to kill, who the enemy is.

We hate it when someone kills for reasons we can’t pin to a category that allows revenge by genre.     Some insane fanatic with no ethnic, religious, or philosophical axe to grind slips into a theater, school, mall and starts shooting, sets off a bomb, kills all those people without giving us a target for our reciprocal hatred.

And we aren’t comfortable enough to even talk about the fact so many of those lone killers are veterans, or otherwise somehow connected to the military, were trained by the military to kill.    Maybe because that gets entirely too close to the core of something nobody cares to think about.    School kids in the US aren’t who we trained them to kill, though the training sufficed anyway.

In one of the big movies of the last century a Texas Ranger named Woodrow Call takes the gun away from a bad person we didn’t like and proceeds to beat the bad guy almost to death.     After he’s pulled of the bleeding wreck by several men and a horse, he comments, “He was rude.   I don’t tolerate rude behavior.”  And the audience giggles with satisfaction.

What a puzzlement.     Where the hell did we get so violent?

Old Jules

Making America Great Again – Circa 2050

duck and cover

I’ve wondered at times what it was about the 1950s and 1960s that allowed those two decades to dominate the nostalgia market during almost all the late 20th Century. In a lot of ways it just doesn’t make sense.

Sure, we had a better music, rhythm and blues, wailing ballads of quality country ad western, and all that new frontier of rock and roll at its birth. Songs we knew well enough to sing along, or alone as we rode down those roads before super-highways on used tires.

Old cars with personality, greasy hair, dandruff, acne and bad teeth. Parents and grandparents who went through the Great Depression and worked hard to assure we wouldn’t experience those kinds of difficult times.

Mostly at the time it was in the world around us and I don’t recall being all that happy about all the other crap that came with it. Constant brink of war sf a sort that it’s better not to remember. Knowing when you turned 18 you’d have the draft hanging over your head. And a lot of bullying everywhere you turned.

If you worked doing farm work the farmers and ranchers who hired you felt a moral obligation to shout and verbally abuse the workers anytime they got within earshot. Construction jobs? You’ve never seen bullying and abuse that could compete with a construction foreman. It was there on the school playgrounds, on the streets, anywhere people happened to be.

And mostly nobody much said a word. It just went with being alive.

Our little farm was just across the railroad tracks on the ‘Mexican’ side of town. When I was in the first and second grade I walked home from school the same way several ‘Mexican’ kids walked. I was smaller than them, anglo, and outnumbered. They started just by yelling insults, but gradually it worked up they’d chase me with sticks or throwing rocks at me.

There came a day I was running home just in front of them, arrived with my mother on the front porch. They gathered on the dirt road in front of the house, still shouting and throwing rocks.

“Get out of here you little Mescin bastards!” She ran down off the porch waving the broom. “I’ll twist your heads off and shove them up your butts!” She never got close to catching them, but they were off.

Then she came back where I was waiting on the porch and smacked me upside the head with the broom so hard it broke the handle. Grabbed me by the collar and proceeded to beat my backside with the handle fragment. “If I ever see you running away from a fight again you’d better not set foot in this house!”

When my step-dad got home she told him, and it was off to the back porch with his belt. But at least he followed that up a bit later by teaching me to fight.

I don’t know what these kids today are going to have to feel nostalgia about. Maybe some of them will have similar memories or they’ll just remember all the computer games and hum rap music to themselves and smile.

But you can almost bet when they reach 50 or so they’ll be rallying around the flag and trying to elect candidates who promise to make America great again. The way it is today.

Old Jules

Worth losing Medicare and Social Security to Make America Great?

the american way
I confess I don’t understand the logic, but around here eavesdropping on conversations between folks of SS pension age, they think losing their SS pension is going to be just ducky.

Not to say they’re mentioning Social Security, or Medicare, or Medicaid. But they’re obviously receiving it, and they’re tickled pea green with the politicians who have every intention of taking away that part of their livelihood.

They love this man in the White House now and considered the State of the Union message ‘inspirational’. Not one dissenting comment I’ve overheard yet.

Well, heck. As a man who relies on Social Security for my only source of income, and on Medicare for a substantial piece of my medications, I’d just like to say, I don’t think America is likely to become great by causing greater hardship for anyone at all in the population. And I’m a bit appalled to see so many people expressing their glee that a bunch of wealthy politicians of both parties are going forward with deliberate plans to do precisely that.

Fact is, if there was ever anything to admire about this country it was the claim that as a people we wanted to make life better for everyone among us.

And in my opinion only human scum would take any joy out of trying to make it worse for any of us.

Old Jules

How’s that work ethic coming along?

work ethic caption

Growing up in a family where everyone worked, was expected to work, some things are branded on the psyche and tend to remain there. When I was a pre-schooler and my mother was working in the cotton-patch pulling boles during harvest, my sisters and I had our own pillow-case sized sacks. And though we didn’t pull a lot of cotton, the experience established a niche in our thinking processes that never went away, for me.

[The Runaways – 1947, posted here July 9, 2013, tells a bit about that time]

It’s only as I had five-or-so decades of life behind me that I ever seriously examined the values concerning work I’d lived with and adhered to all my life.

I’d pursued a career almost twenty years, blindly believed my dedication to the job, and the job, itself, were a major piece of what made me valuable as a person. And a spinoff of that belief was that a person who didn’t hold that view and allow a job to measure his worth probably wasn’t worth much.

But toward the end of that career the realization began to creep in that I was devoted, pouring my heart into a job that probably didn’t need doing. That I was wasting my life and that I was actually having a negative influence on the lives of many other people by my single-minded pursuit of that career.

Tough wake-up call it was for me. Jangled my entire life.

So I left that career for another, and wasn’t long in realizing that I was not that job. The job was just a way of making a living. That I was actually in another job that probably didn’t need doing. And I looked around me and saw it was true for almost everything going on around me.

Yes, there are essential jobs out there. Jobs that really need doing. Running the municipal sewer plant, for instance. Driving the garbage truck. Making sure the crops farmers plant are nurtured and harvested. Delivering food essentials to the population. Placing food on the counters for sale to the public.

Now isn’t that interesting? The most fundamentally essential jobs in our ‘civilization’ are the least coveted? That the rewards for doing them are less than those for people selling something, or representing someone in a lawsuit, or working in a unionized factory as a piece of an assembly line? Or repairing automobiles?

I’m inclined to believe the entire issue of the work ethic in this country, and the people who embrace the notion it’s a measure of human worth, needs a lot more careful examination.

I hope I’ll be doing some more blog posts about it for a closer look. Which I expect will raise the hackles of some readers.

Old Jules

Amazing quilting

Hi readers.

During the coldest months of last winter a friend from one of my previous lifetimes heard about my situation here and sent me a fantastic, warm, welcome gift. Judy Van Hooser was so long ago I’d have thought she had forgotten I exist.

judy quilt1
Beautiful work and it all appears to be hand-stitched.

judy quilt3
Every year Judy makes one of these and gives it to a veteran somewhere.

judy quilt2
Last year she contacted my ex-wife, Caroline, and said she’d like to give this one to me.

judy quilt flipside

I was both dumbfounded and ecstatic. It’s almost too fine to use as a quilt. But these winter nights don’t leave a lot of room for the luxury of using a warm quilt for a showpiece. This one does what quilts and blankets were always supposed to do.

Thank you Judy. You’ve earned a place in my gratitude affirmations. And every time I use that quilt I remember.

Old Jules

Great big old ducks

Original Hospital and Lake1
Hi readers. Thanks for coming by for a read.

Back in the late 1800s when they dug that lake to excavate clay to make bricks for that original VA hospital they had to do something about the hole it left behind. So they filled it with water. Made a nice little recreation facility for the biggest piece of a century.

But what nobody could anticipate was that a time would come when nobody would give a damn about maintaining the lake. That it would become a sedimentation pond for the droppings of hundreds of waterfowl migrating in every winter, and some who just stay year around.

And over time the lake would mostly fill with those droppings until it was so shallow a person would have to work to drown in it.

That lake mostly can’t handle the biological oxygen demand because of all the manure. And nobody is about to spend the money to blow that water into the air to keep it alive. There’s a little bubbler at one end that sometimes works, but otherwise the pond turns over, stinks, kills a lot of fish, and is a sad reminder of how much maintenance man-made creations demand over the course of time.

great big old ducks

Nobody in my life has ever appreciated my sense of humor, and the same applies here. But at least I figure it helps make these drunks, derelicts, and opinionated old men feel better about themselves by being able to think me stupid. So anytime I get the chance to work it into a conversation I say something about those ‘great big old ducks’ running around crapping on everything.

And crap they do….. the grounds are speckled with them…. looks like someone ran one of those plugging things across the lawns. Yeah, and the streets, [and they do let fly as they pass over cars…. nothing like a splash of great big old duck droppings on your windshield].

But I digress.

A man staggering by knee-walking drunk will pause, gaze at me a moment, and shake his head almost every time if I remark to him, “Reckon where all those great big old ducks come from, anyway?”

Makes him feel better about himself. I’m convince of it. Yeah, I know they’re geese. But what the hell?

We all have our own small parts to play helping veterans, I figure.

Old Jules

The curse of inheritance

feral hog
Hi readers. Thanks for coming by for a read.

Those of you who have read this blog awhile probably know I’m inclined to think we’ve got to quit rewarding people for being born to wealthy, powerful parents. The practice has been around so long it’s almost impossible to force our minds to examine the issue. But when we are able to do it a lot of facets emerge that would argue to the unbiased observer it’s not the way to operate a society.

We all grew up on rags to riches stories and the generations before us had their Horatio Algers, Joseph Kennedys and other self-made millionaires. This country spawned thousands of them during the 19th and 20th Centuries.

But what we rarely consider is that the progeny of those millionaires and billionaires end up being the driving forces in the running of the country. An aristocracy based as thoroughly on inheritance as any European lords and nobles the people who founded this country did their best to assure would never rule here.

In the same way we know about self-made wealth and the men who have it, most of us also know about their offspring. The powerful insanity of the heirs to the DuPont fortune. Teddy Kennedy. Paris Hilton. And the list goes on and on. There’s no evidence at all that being born to conspicuous wealth lends itself to breeding better, more productive people. The opposite is more likely true.

So what, the next obvious question asks itself, should ‘we’ do with billionaire estates after it’s all been confiscated besides, say, a million dollars each to the heirs?

Well, how about this? Use it to finance those damned wars nobody has asked anyone but wealthy people whether they want?

Or use it to build that damned wall most sane people don’t want, but are being threatened with having to pay for.

Or sum it all up each year and divide it into equal parts as a sort of ‘tax refund’ for all the other citizens of the country who don’t have a million bucks?

And every one of these suggestions is certain to infuriate a huge piece of the public. The wealthy and powerful, of course. And those who think they might inherit sometime, somehow. And those who believe they’re clever enough to be a self-made millionaire and that this will keep them from creating a dynasty.

But the really strange ones are those down in the trailer parks, of out there in suburbia who toil for their survival and work hard for everything they get in this life. They are as protective of our power elite aristocracy as their masters who did inherit their fortunes.

There’s no understanding the human mind.

Old Jules